Missoula Measures - Sexual Behavior
Why this topic?
Responsible sexual behavior significantly reduces the risks of:
- Sexually transmitted illnesses;
- some easily cured, but if untreated may cause infertility or chronic pelvic pain (i.e. Chlamydia)
- some incurable and very serious (i.e. HIV/AIDS)
- Unintended pregnancies
- Emotional trauma and social fears
Common contributing factors to irresponsible sexual behavior include alcohol and drug use, peer pressure (especially among teens), and lack of knowledge about safe sex practices. Domestic violence and abuse may also be a factor.
It is difficult to find data that reflects contraception use and sexual behavior across all age groups for counties, or even for states as small in population as Montana. Data does exist for adolescents through the YRBS surveys, along with teen birth data through Montana DPHHS Vital Statistics. Sexual behavior among adolescents has many potential negative consequences, including teen pregnancy. Teens are also less likely to get prenatal care, leading to birth complications.
The consequences of irresponsible sexual activity impact society not only in terms of medical costs, but also in high school drop-out numbers (not only of pregnant teen girls, but of their children); irresponsible teen parenting that often leads to child abuse or neglect; and poverty (single Moms with minimal education or job skills). (While placing an unintended child for adoption can improve the chances of success for that child and the birth mother, it does not seem to be encouraged.)
Those who choose to be sexually active, and who are not in a monogamous relationship, can protect themselves from these negative consequences by consistently practicing safe sex habits, such as condom use.
From 2007-2011, Missoula County had a birth rate for adolescents aged 15 to 19 of 33.8/1,000, lower than the overall Montana rate of 46.2/1,000 for the same time period. For a rough comparison, in 2010 the US teen birth rate was 34.3/1,000, the lowest rate on record. (Montana DPHHS Family Planning Program. Montana Teen Birth and Pregnancy Report 2012: Trends in Teen Births 2002-2011.)
In 2005, Missoula’s high school Health Enhancement classes devote 3 weeks (50 min per day) to sex education, which also includes abstinence and birth control information. Only 1-2 students per school opt out of the program.
The reported number of chlamydia cases is probably only 30% of actual number. Most reported Chlamydia cases are in females aged 15-24. This is due to greater susceptibility to infection, inexperience in negotiating safer behaviors, a greater likelihood of multiple partners and other factors. Females account for most reports because they seek reproductive health care more frequently than men, and because men are typically asymptomatic.
Healthy People 2020 Target
- Teens (grades 9-12) not sexually active, or using condoms - 95%
- Proportion of females (and their partners) at risk for unintended pregnancies who use condoms - 100%
- 43 pregnancies per 1000 adolescent females
- Persons with Chlamydia - 3%
- Persons with genital herpes - 14%
The US Dept of Health and Human Services sponsors the Healthy People objectives, a science-based, 10-year national plan for improving the health of all Americans.
Currently, Health People 2020 reports that almost half of all pregnancies are unintended.
Condom Effectiveness - CDC
Preventing pregnancy - Woman's Health .gov
Teen sexual behaviors - CDC
Montana teen pregnancy prevention - MT Dept. Health & Human Services
Healthy People 2020 - extensive background on national public health status of this topic and many others.